I really thought my kids had exhausted all the horses of Greek Mythology so that I was spared having to draw another horse but I forgot all about Centaurs. At least a centaur is only a half horse so that was something of a blessing.
Centaurs have the hindquarters and legs of a horse but the torso and head of a human. In the myths, they are renowned for their warring ways. In their most famous conflict, they gate-crashed the wedding of a cousin and attempted to abduct the bride and all the female guests. In that instance, they were defeated by the hero Theseus.
As a consequence of their brutish and brutal behavior, Centaurs are usually depicted as being macho and muscular. I, of course, decided to do something different in order to put my own spin on things. When pondering centaurs, I could not rid myself of the image of a pantomime horse and that made me think of something that looked a little goofy and ungainly. That then sparked an idea in my head: what if there was a runt of the herd? What if there was a centaur among them who did not want to go off raping and pillaging but instead wanted to read books and discuss philosophy? And that then led me to ponder what a nerdy centaur might look like.
I struggled a bit with the sketch as I decided to depict the centaur front facing rather than in profile. Trying to get the shape of the horse body and legs right gave me some difficulty but finally I came up with a composition I was content with. I gave my centaur prominent teeth in order to suggest that a little bit of horse made it above the waistline too – and I was thinking of the daft grins on those pantomime horses again – and funnily enough it makes him look like he could be a relative of Wallace from the ‘Wallace and Gromit’ series. Since I also drew the Golden Fleece looking like Shaun the Sheep, I must have to count the animation of Nick Park among my influences.
Sigh. Another horse. Remember I suck at drawing horses.
Thankfully this particular horse was not representing a living creature but was instead constructed by the Greeks as their sneaky way of invading the besieged city of Troy. Nevertheless, the sketch gave me quite a lot of difficulty. I felt it had to have the proportions of a horse and be clearly horse-shaped but also look blocky so as to not resemble anything organic. There was a great deal of scribbling and erasing and scribbling and erasing.
Let us just pause a moment and reflect on the daftness of the myth of the Trojan Horse, shall we? Apparently historians, classicists and archaeologists alike have all pondered the grains of truth that might be contained in the legend. Perhaps it was really a battering ram or perhaps it is a symbol for an earthquake. Those are some of the theories. Putting that aside, however, and focusing just on the literary story, we have a group of people who have been under siege in their city for a decade (if memory serves) who awake one day to find that the Greeks who have been hammering them for all those years have unexpectedly and inexplicably disappeared, leaving behind a wooden horse by way of an apology for the inconvenience caused. Not thinking this remotely suspicious, the wooden horse is then brought into the city only for the Greeks, hidden inside, to disembark, slaughter everyone and finally claim a victory in the Trojan War. A War, lest we forget, which was precipitated by a randy Prince making off with some other ruler’s wife. It’s deep stuff.
Finally I got a shape I was happy with but still something was lacking. I left the sketch sitting for a while waiting for a flash of inspiration. Gift. That was the element that was missing. The whole idea that an enemy would retreat and leave a present in their wake was the crucial detail that would complete my drawing. A neatly tied bow in a ribbon and a gift tag were added. Job done.
Fingers crossed for no more horses in this drawing challenge.
Having drawn Medusa yesterday, it is entirely appropriate that today I was challenged with drawing Pegasus, apt because Pegasus is the offspring of Medusa. Of course, I don’t think that is why Pegasus was so high on the list created by my own offspring. Rather that would be because my 7 year old son is obsessed with horses, unicorns and pegasuses (seriously, what is the plural of Pegasus?).
According to some versions of the Medusa myth, Medusa was pregnant (to Poseidon) at the time of her death. Therefore, when Perseus beheaded her, that unborn child sprang forth as the winged horse Pegasus. No idea how the genetics works on that one. Pegasus was captured by the hero Bellerophon and agreed to help him with his heroic missions, including defeating the Chimera.
Despite the fact that my horse-mad 7 year old makes me draw them all the time, I suck at drawing horses. I just cannot get the proportions and shapes right. In my sketch version I scribbled and erased a lot before I got an outline I was satisfied, if not entirely happy, with. I also opted for a much more graphic rather than representational style of drawing because I was more capable of that than anything that actually looked like a realistic horse, even one with wings.
Traditionally Pegasus is a pure white stallion but part of my challenge is to work with watercolour in my drawings. I, therefore, opted to use some pale blues to underline the connection between the horse and the sky. I then drew the outline in ultramarine ink with my dip pen, except for the eye which is black.
As a horse, it’s a pretty rubbish drawing. My 7 year old, however, declares it to be “awesome” so that is all right with me.